Hatsumoude in Chikubujima Island

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It was a really great experience.
When I was move to Shiga, I've desired to go to Chikubujima Island from bottom of my heart.

Chikubushima is a tiny island and located north of Lake Biwa in Shiga prefecture.
It takes around 20 minutes by ferry from Imazu Port in Takashima city, and it it a Shiga's hidden sacred place.

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I went to Chikubujima as a Hatsumoude on 2nd January, 2018.
Hatsumode is the first visit made to a shrine or temple at the start of the year, to pray for happiness in the year ahead.
So, I felt it is perfect to go to Chikubujima Island as a Hatsumoude.

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In Chikubujima Island, you can find both Hogonji Temple and Tsukubusuma-jinja Shrine.
The Benzaiten (Sarasvati) at Hogonji Temple is known as one of the three best in Japan.
The gabled karamon gate at Hogonji Temple is said to be only remaining piece of Hideyoshi's Osaka-jo Castle, and it is a registered national treasure alongside the main shrine at Tsukubusuma-jinja Shrine.

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Since ancient times, this island's God has also been worshipped for providing safe passage for travel across water.
Recetly, the island is now widely known as one of the most powerful spots for spiritual energy on Lake Biwa, and is a place to truly experience water and prayer.

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If you have any strongly desired wish, you shoud try to kawarake-nage at Ryujin (Dragon God) haisho.

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The Ryujin Haisho means you can see (or meet) to Dragon God here. Here is most strong energy you can feel.

Hope my wish will come true within 2018....

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More information about Chikubujima island : https://en.biwako-visitors.jp/spot/detail/2472

Biwako Kisen Chukubujima Cruise : https://www.biwakokisen.co.jp/en/chikubushima.html

Omi Marine Chukubujima Route : https://en.biwako-visitors.jp/spot/detail/230

Chikubujima Offcial website : http://www.chikubushima.jp/e_origin

Mochi, thé et tradition en pleine nature

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De bon matin, j'ai pris le train jusqu'à la gare d'Ishiyama, à Ôtsu, pour prendre la première navette du jour jusqu'à Kanô Shôjuan Sunaï-no-Sato.

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Situé dans les montagnes du sud de la capitale de Shiga, ce complexe sert de maison-mère à une compagnie de pâtisseries traditionnelles japonaises, et offre une foule d'activités. Au menu du jour : fabrication de mochi et de décorations du Nouvel An, et cérémonie du thé.

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C'est à l'ombre d'une ancienne chaumière que nous prenons pilon en main pour pétrir du riz encore fumant. Le mochi est fait de riz gluant, que l'on frappe répétitivement avec un maillet jusqu'à l'obtention d'une pâte légèrement collante. C'est l'un des goûters traditionnels du Nouvel An et sa fabrication est tout un rite, appelé mochitsuki. Après avoir mis l'huile de coude chacun à notre tour, nous savourons le fruit de notre labeur : du mochi bien chaud, préparé de trois façons. Aux classiques pâte de haricots rouges sucrés et poudre de soja grillé s'ajoutait du radis blanc finement râpé, piquant et juteux, une nouveauté pour mon palais. Des trois, je préfère toujours le soja, mais je ne dis pas non à une deuxième part des autres.

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Après ce délicieux goûter, nous nous dirigeons vers le bâtiment central pour fabriquer des mochibana. Ces « fleurs de mochi » servent de décorations traditionnelles au Nouvel An, et les boulettes roses et blanches sont censées appeler la chance et la prospérité. La tâche est plutôt facile, voire relaxante; il suffit d'orner des branches de saule de petites boules de mochi avant qu'il ne refroidisse. Une fois durci, son poids tire les branches vers le bas; le produit final me rappelle un feu d'artifice.

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Toutes les branches ainsi alourdies, nous faisons le tour des boutiques de pâtisseries traditionnelles avant de nous déplacer vers la salle de cérémonie du thé.

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Espace intime, la salle s'ouvre sur le jardin pour permettre aux visiteurs d'observer la nature au rythme des saisons. En effet, la cérémonie du thé est un moment de contemplation autant qu'une expérience gustative, et chaque détail honore le temps de l'année. En ce début décembre, les dernières feuilles rouges persistent sur les branches et les décorations du tokonoma (un poème, un objet d'art et un ikebana) reflètent le temps froid. À son arrivée, la maîtresse de cérémonie nous explique le sens de chaque objet avant de commencer la préparation du thé, et nous laisse déguster une pâtisserie exclusive en laissant errer notre regard. Comme j'ai la chance d'être la première en ligne pour le thé, elle me passe une tasse spéciale, ornée de lapins... Au Japon, on dit qu'un lapin vit sur la Lune, où il fabrique du mochi. Quelle meilleure façon de couronner cette journée!

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Kanô Shôjuan Sunaï-no-Sato offre une variété d'activités tout au long de l'année; la fabrication de mochibana est offerte du début décembre à la mi-décembre (réservation requise dans certains cas).

La navette gratuite part de la gare d'Ishiyama quatre fois par jour (±30 minutes, premier arrivé, premier assis).

(By Émilie Lamont-Cardinal)

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Trip report in Portuguese is here

I have been to Sunai no Sato a few times and every time has always been surprisingly different. The place is located next to the mountains, which is definitely a selling point to me, and gets especially beautiful during autumn, but even more when it snows. After living in Japan for a few years I came to abhor the ever so popular "you can enjoy the four seasons" type of ads, but believe me, it really deserves a visit at least once per season and not only because of the nature.

One of interesting aspects there is the traditional houses turned into restaurants, classrooms for handcrafts and traditional sweets, stores and a tea ceremony room, proving that it is indeed possible to maintain this kind of buildings, keep its atmosphere and still make them convenient enough to use today.

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To get there we went first to Ishiyama station, where we hoped into a free shuttle bus to Sunai no Sato. The trip takes about 20 minutes. Getting off the bus at the parking lot, we met our guides and went to the first stop of our trip, a place called Irori Chabo.

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Specially on this day they would do mochitsuki, a traditional way of making mochi (pound rice cakes) using a japanese stomp mill and pestle that looks a lot like a wooden mallet. As incredible as it sounds, in 5 years of Japan I have never tried mochitsuki, and could finally try my hand at it. Although I was a bit worried, doing my best not to hit the person folding the rice inside the mill, everything went fine and I really enjoyed the whole thing! (Nothing like hitting something with a mallet to relieve your stress.)

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After it, we ate the freshly pounded mochi with kinako (toasted soybeans sweet flour), tsuboan (sweet azuki beans) and oroshi (grated radish).

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The warm, freshly pounded mochi had an exquisite texture, soft and chewy, that goes along perfectly with the toppings. Although I liked all of it, I must admit the oroshi version, which I never had with mochi before and was delicious, pleasantly surprised me.

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After getting our bellies stuffed, we walked to Santokuen, where the stores, classrooms for crafts / sweets, and tea ceremony room are located.

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Our guides then gently helped us during our next activity: making mochibana, an ornament made traditionally during New Year's to pray for good harvest and happiness. Each of us received a branch of yanagi (willow) and some white and pink hot mochi. The process is rather simple, and you just need to cut small pieces of mochi and use it to decorate the branches.

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When finished, they look l covered in flower buds, turning it into a beautiful ornament you can bring home. Since we were talking to the staff while we made, time really flew by and we had a lot of fun.

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Last, we also participated on a tea ceremony. Their main idea is that you can enjoy tea in a very relaxed atmosphere, without being worried with all the etiquette inherent to the traditional ceremony. The tea, delicious and velvety, is perfectly served and the tearoom itself is charming, with a view to the garden. The person in charge of the ceremony also explained to us their choices on apparel, sweets and the tokonoma decoration, which they choose according to the seasons.

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We then said our goodbyes to the staff and took the free bus back to Ishiyama. On the short trip back, I felt I must come back, if not for the snow, at least in March, when the Ume flowers are in bloom.

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(By Rodrigo Brinca)

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English version is here

Já visitei o Sunai no Sato algumas vezes e todas foram, surpreendentemente, bem diferentes. O lugar fica próximo às montanhas, o que realmente é um dos atrativos para mim, e é especialmente bonito durante o outono, mas ainda mais quando neva. Depois de viver alguns anos aqui no Japão, passei a detestar aqueles tipos de propaganda, muito comuns, que dizem que "você pode apreciar as quatro estações", mas acredite quando digo que o lugar merece mesmo uma visita por estação, e não só por causa da natureza.

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Um dos aspectos interessantes lá são as casas tradicionais transformadas em restaurante, salas de aula de confecção de doces e enfeites, lojas e uma sala de cerimônia do chá, provando que é mesmo possível manter este tipo de construção, preservar a atmosfera do lugar, e ainda torná-las convenientes o suficiente para o uso hoje.

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Para chegar lá, primeiro fomos até a estação de Ishiyama de onde pegamos um ônibus gratuito para o Sunai no Sato. A viagem dura uns 20 minutos. Descendo no estacionamento, encontramos nossos guias e fomos até o primeiro lugar do passeio, chamado de Irori Chabô. Especialmente neste dia seria feito o mochitsuki, jeito tradicional de fazer mochi (bolinhos de arroz batido) usando um pilão e martelo de madeira. Por incrível que pareça, com 5 anos de Japão eu nunca tinha feito mochitsuki e finalmente pude me arriscar. Apesar de ficar um pouco preocupado, tomando cuidado para não acertar a pessoa que estava virando o arroz no pilão, tudo deu certo e eu adorei a coisa toda! (Nada como bater em alguma coisa com uma marreta para aliviar o stress.)

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Depois disso, comemos os mochi recém-feitos com coberturas de kinako (farinha doce de soja tostada), tsuboan (doce de feijão azuki em grãos) e oroshi (nabo ralado). Gostei de todos, mas fiquei surpreso com o oroshi, que nunca tinha visto com mochi e combina muito bem!

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Depois de encher a barriga andamos até o Santokuen, que é onde estão as lojas de doces, salas das aulas de artesanato/confecção de doces e a sala de cerimônia do chá. Nossos guias então gentilmente nos ajudaram na nossa próxima tarefa: fazer o mochibana, enfeite feito tradicionalmente no ano novo para pedir uma boa colheita e felicidade.

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Cada um ganhou um galho de yanagi (chorão) e mochi quente branco e rosa. O processo é bem simples, a você só precisa cortar pedacinhos de mochi e usá-lo para enfeitar os galhos. Quando terminado, parece que o galho está coberto de botões de flor, virando um lindo ornamento que você pode levar para casa. Como ficamos conversando com o pessoal enquanto fazíamos o enfeite, o tempo passou voando e nos divertirmos bastante.

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Por fim, também participamos de uma cerimônia do chá. Aqui a idéia deles é que você possa apreciar o chá em um ambiente mais tranquilo, sem preocupação com toda a etiqueta envolvida na cerimônia tradicional. O chá, delicioso e aveludado, é servido com perfeição e a sala de chá também é encantadora, com vista para o jardim.

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A responsável pela cerimônia também nos explicou sobre as escolhas do utensílios, doces servidos e decoração do tokonoma, escolhidos de acordo com as estações.

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Então nos despedimos da equipe pegamos o ônibus gratuito de volta para Ishiyama. Na curta viagem de volta, senti que preciso voltar, se não para ver a neve, pelo menos em março, quando florescem as árvores de ume.

Explore - Omi Hachiman

It was a blessing for me to have the opportunity to visit Omi-Hachiman. It was wonderful, unique experience to Japanese history and culture. I was able to go with my good and royal friend Tyleen Wilson (2nd year in JCMU) , and together we spent an amazing afternoon exploring this beautiful city.

We began our journey to Omi-Hachiman with visiting Himure Hachimangu Shrine.

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The gate of Himure-Hachimangu Shrine.

There is a giant torii (holy gate) in front of this stone. The torii functions as a divide between the sacred ground and the rest of the world.

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The history of the shrine goes all the way back to the Kamakura period. The god worshiped in this shrine is Hachiman, the god of martial arts. Personally, as a fan of Edo period architecture, I enjoyed the old, authentic temple buildings from Edo period.

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The shrine is not only historically significant, but also extremely beautiful. I was lucky that I visited shrine in the Fall because the leaves set special moods for the visitors. I would also be interested in coming here during the spring and summer because I was taught that Himure Shrine is also famous for its festivals.

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And, there are golden birds.

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Golden.

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Birds.

There is a mountain right next to Himure Shrine. Hachiman Yama (Hachiman Mountain), is an amazingly gorgeous mountain which also has a rich history with samurais. Our tour guide informed us that there was an epic battle between the ruler of Japan and his own stepson. The walls of the castle where the battle took place still exists.

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The good thing about Hachiman Yama is that there is a lift that goes up to the top. You do not have to climb (yay). I particularly enjoyed the beautiful colors of autumn leaves. Tyleen liked a little Buddhist altar along the road.

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There is a castle in the mountain where samurai used to live. It is a castle that shows the mixed style between Edo period and Sengoku period. All of the stones are natural - neither carved nor modified.

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At the top of mountain.

Normally, one could see the Lake Biwa from mountain with all the famous places in Omi-Hachiman. However, this day was little cloudy, so we instead enjoyed the scenery.

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After we finished Hachiman Yama, we moved to the boat ride. It was my first time riding that type of Japanese traditional boat. It was very quiet on the river, no people, only nature, birds, fish, and calm wind.

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It was so tranquil. From the boat ride, we could see the mountain far away, the winding river, and traditional houses all at the same time.

It was an overall wonderful experience. In places such as Kyoto and Tokyo, while they may be exciting and popular places, they are full of noise and people. This, I think, takes away from the true beauty of Japan. In Omi-Hachiman, I experienced a place where the history can be seen in its natural beauty. For those who wish to observe the quiet beauty of Japan, I recommend a visit to Omi-Hachiman. Tyleen and I had a wonderful time.

(Author : Kim Younghoon)

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Olá pessoal! Aqui é a Natália, brasileira que mora em Hikone e eu quero escrever um pouco sobre minha experiência no "Biwako Dai Hanabi Taikai" em Otsu, Shiga. Para quem não sabe, o verão no Japão é conhecido como a época dos festivais ("matsuri"), no qual as pessoas saem de casa com a família e amigos para se distrair e esquecer um pouco o calor. Uma das tradições desse período é assistir os famosos festivais de fogos de artifícios ("hanabi taikai") que acontecem em toda parte durante o mês de agosto.

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No dia 8 de agosto de 2017, eu fui pela primeira vez ao "Biwako Dai Hanabi Taikai", que acontece no porto da cidade de Otsu, capital da província de Shiga. O "Biwako Dai Hanabi Taikai" é o maior festival de fogos de artifício da região de Shiga e aproximadamente 350 mil fogos são liberados durante o evento, colorindo o céu de Otsu de maneira sem igual.

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Como eu moro em Hikone, na região norte de Shiga, saí do serviço e peguei um trem até a estação JR Otsu. De lá, encontrei com a minha amiga Emily que trabalha na cidade e decidimos jantar em algum lugar, já que tinhamos um tempinho até o início do evento.

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Saímos pela saída norte ("kita guchi") da estação e seguimos o fluxo das pessoas que estavam indo para o evento. Logo de cara acabamos achando a placa do "Saigo ni Katsu", um restaurante especializado em pratos com carne, à 3 minutos à pé da estação de Otsu.

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O restaurante ficava no fundo de um corredor, então percorremos o corredor e entramos no local. Apesar de pequeno, o restaurante era bastante confortável e lembrava bares antigos japoneses que a gente vê na televisão.

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Depois de ficar uns bons minutos em dúvida sobre o que pedir, eu optei por um "tonteki", um filé de carne de porco com molho especial. Além do filé de 200 gramas, o prato veio com salada, arroz à vontade e sopa. O mais impressionante foi o preço, apenas 900 ienes por tudo.

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A Emily optou pelo "bifuteki", praticamente o mesmo prato que o meu, com a diferença que o filé era feito de carne de vaca. Além das opções de carne de 200 gramas, havia a opção de pedir a carne com 400 gramas.

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O menu também tinha outras opções muito interessantes, como curry especial da casa ("kare"), filé de carne servido sobre o arroz branco ("suteki don") e filé com molho demi glace ("bifu demi"). Definitivamente vou precisar voltar mais vezes para experimentar os outros pratos.

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Obviamente, eu e a Emily ficamos muito felizes com o nossos pratos. (^_^) Depois da janta, saímos e continuamos nosso caminho até o festival de fogos de artifício.

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Para chegar no "Biwako Dai Hanabi Matsuri", basta sair da estação JR Otsu pela saída norte ("kita guchi") e seguir o fluxo de pessoas. Há muitas policiais e staffs orientando até o local, então não há como errar. O local do evento é aproximadamente 10 mins a pé da estação de Otsu, então foi bastante tranquilo para chegar.

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Uma dica para chegar no local do evento é seguir as pessoas que estão vestidas de yukata. Muitos casais de namorados aproveitam para assistir os fogos de artifício juntos. (^_^)

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Como o evento é o maior da região de Shiga, há diversos locais para assistir os fogos de artifício. O evento em si é gratuito, mas aqueles que quiserem ver os fogos em um lugar privilegiado e com direito à assento, podem adquirir um ingresso especial, que pode ser comprado antecipadamente ou no dia mesmo.

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O evento começou às 19h30m, com um show de fogos impressionante. Durante o festival, os fogos foram divididos por tema, então havia fogos de diferentes cores e formatos para admirar. Muitas pessoas aproveitaram para tirar fotos e vídeos do céu.

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Além dos fogos tradicionais, havia fogos temáticos com formatos de objetos, planetas e bichinhos. A cor e quantidade de fogos também era impressionante, deixando o céu de Otsu com um aspecto multi-colorido.

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Às 20h30m, o evento chegou ao fim, com outra chuva de fogos. Ficamos tão entretidas pelos fogos de artifício que nem sequer vimos o tempo passar. Para aqueles querem experimentar um festival de fogos de artifício tradicional do Japão, eu definitivamente recomendo ir ao "Biwako Dai Hanabi Taikai" de Otsu!


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PARA ASSISTIR O "BIWAKO DAI HANABI TAIKAI"

Aqueles que desejam adquirir os ingressos especiais para assistir os fogos de artifício do "Biwako Dai Hanabi Taikai" podem conferir a página oficial do evento. A página é atualizada todo ano no mês de julho e os ingressos são vendidos a partir dessa data. A página oficial do evento é https://www.biwako-visitors.jp/hanabi/

Você poderá adquirir os ingressos reservados de diversos sites de compra online. Basta seguir as instruções de cada site para efetuar sua compra. Para aqueles que querem ver os fogos de artifício bem de pertinho e com conforto, é uma excelente ideia comprar o ingresso especial. Lembrando que o evento em si é gratuito, então mesmo aqueles que não tem ingresso podem ir até o local e assistir os fogos de um dos locais não reservados. (^_^)

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COMO CHEGAR NO "BIWAKO DAI HANABI TAIKAI"

Para chegar no local do "Biwako Dai Hanabi Taikai" de trem você deverá descer na estação JR Otsu ou JR Zeze e caminhar até o local do evento. Também é possível descer na estação Hamaotsu da linha Keihan e caminhar até o local. Os arredores do evento costumam ficar bem cheio de pessoas, por isso é recomendável chegar o mais cedo possível antes do início dos fogos! Não deixem de perder a oportunidade de assistir o maior festival de fogos de artifício da região de Shiga!

Great Lake Biwa Fireworks Display 2017

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August 8th is the day of the Great Lake Biwa Fireworks Display!

This year I went with the Hikone City CIR Natalia at Otsu Port right on the lake.

Natalia and I met up at Otsu Station and headed down Suehirocho road, the street to the far left of Otsu station near 7 Eleven.

Even though we met up hours before the start of the show, the streets were already crowded with people on their way to finding a good spot to watch from.

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We walked for less than two minutes before we arrived at the restaurant we had decided to go to for dinner. It was called Saigo ni Katsu Part 2 (yes there is a part one.)

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We ordered a pork and beef steak respectively, and it came with plenty of shredded cabbage, rice, and soup.

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The beef steak that I ordered was very tender and juicy and was absolutely wonderful.

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Natalia and I about to dig into our feast. We ordered the normal size portions, but we were very full by the end of our meal.

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The Restaurant was located down a small pathway off from the main road, marked by the big sign with the Chinese character for "MEAT." My kind of restaurant right there.

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After eating, we headed down toward the lake so we could find our seats. The streets were full of people in colorful yukata looking forward to seeing a really spectacular fireworks show. Once we found our seats, we got our cameras ready and waited for the show to begin!

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We didn't have to wait long before the show began. Here are some of the pictures I got!

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The fireworks this year were full of spectacular displays of reds, greens, and golds.

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Although it was a bit challenging to catch the brief moments when the fireworks were at their peak, here are some of the best shots I got! If you have not yet had the opportunity to go to see this particular firework show over Lake Biwa, I highly recommend that you do!


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For those interested in getting the seats we got!

Paid-entry seating tickets go on sale every year at the beginning of July. Please see this website for more info.  https://www.biwako-visitors.jp/hanabi/
Tickets are sold both online and at tourism centers.
Paid-entry tickets have assigned seats and are right up close to the fireworks for a great view!

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There is of course also free-seating areas where everyone can view the fireworks from. You can access these areas by either JR Otsu or Zeze Station, or by getting off at Hamaotsu via the Keihan Line. My one piece of advice here would be to allow plenty of time to find a seat though as this area is always very crowded, but I definitely recommend that you come and see these fireworks for yourself!

Biwako Valley, Kaizu's Cherry Blossoms

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One pleasant morning in April, we found ourselves at Biwako Valley, a mountain resort in western Shiga.Biwako Valley is more well-known for its Winter Season ski slopes, but this time we visited at the start of their Green Season. The base of the resort is also famous for its cherry blossoms.

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Biwako Valley is on the summit of a mountain, so to reach it we rode the Biwako Valley ropeway. Here we got our first glimpse of Lake Biwa and the surrounding countryside.

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Mrs. Tarao was kind enough to give us a tour of the facilities. The snow was still melting, so not all of the Green Season attractions were up and running. Later in the spring and summer, Biwako Valley offers zip-lining, a ropes course, and a space for kids called "Summer Land."

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One of the newer areas at Biwako Valley is The Biwako Terrace, a cozy café with a beautiful deck overlooking the lake.

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The Biwako Terrace had a nice homey atmosphere and huge windows, so even on cold days customers can enjoy the view. There is also a separate room for groups to rent out.

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The day we visited was pretty foggy, but on a clear day you can see all the way to Mt. Ibuki and the Suzuka Mountains - literally the other side of Shiga Prefecture.

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Maybe it was just us being constantly hungry, but the first thing we noticed upon entering The Biwako Terrace was a display of delicious-looking gelato. Flavors ranged from local tea and fruits to the ever-popular cookies 'n' cream (referred to here as "biscuit").

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We chose the three local flavors: Adoberry, a berry-bearing bramble from Takashima (say that three times fast), and Omi Wa Koucha and Omi Genmaicha, two different kinds of tea grown in Shiga.

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The unanimous favorite was Adoberry. Omi Wa Koucha (black tea) was subtle and fragrant, with just the right amount of sweetness. The Omi Genmaicha was, as Roddie put it, "not for beginners." At first glance, it looks like matcha, but its flavor is distinctly that of Genmaicha, a type of green tea combined with roasted brown rice.

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The multi-level decks outside the café are lined with blue reflecting pools, which complement the colors of the sky and lake.

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There's another lookout point beyond the deck called "Lover's Sanctuary." It is shaped like - surprise! - a heart.

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Speaking of love, here's something we all love: buffets. Since we couldn't decide what to eat, we ended up getting a little bit of everything, from tempura to local red konyaku.

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They also had a good variety of Japanese-style sweets, fruits, and yogurt for dessert.

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Near the ropeway station at the base of the mountain there was a small marche with stalls from all over Kansai selling malasadas (Hawaiian donuts), bagels, and more classic festival food, like yaki imo (baked sweet potatoes).

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Next, we took the scenic train up to Makino, a town in northern Takashima City. Across the station was a small place to rent bicycles.

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From the station, it was only about a five minute ride to Makino Sunny Beach. The day had cleared up, and the crystal clear water made for some gorgeous photographs.

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After another ten or fifteen minutes of cycling, we stopped to take some more pictures. From this one, you can see the cherry blossoms that line Kaizu Osaki Peninsula, our next destination. There were also lots of ducks and a few black kites soaring overhead.

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We finally made it to Kaizu-Osaki Peninsula, which is part of the Biwako Quasi-National Park. It is said to be famous for its 600 Yoshino cherry trees, and it was no lie. There was a great number of families and couples picnicking and wandering among the trees.

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There are a couple docks along the peninsula where you can join boat tours to enjoy views of the cherry blossoms from the lake.

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The landscape of northern Shiga is completely different from the cityscapes of Otsu. In this picture, you can see how sparkly the water was on that sunny day.

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Even for people who like to be present and savor the moment, it's impossible to resist taking pictures (and the results are well worth it!).

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A few stores along the way to the peninsula were selling locally-made sweets. We felt it fitting to have some sakura-mochi (sweet pounded rice wrapped in pickled cherry blossom leaves).

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We took a few more pictures before getting back on the bikes.

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This is a humble example of the kind of photos you can take. The contrast of the delicate cherry blossoms and the lichen-covered bark is especially striking.

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The unique part of Kaizu-Osaki Peninsula is that the journey itself is beautiful. Instead of visiting different attractions and then getting back into a car or onto a bus, here you find yourself surrounded by pink blossoms and sparkling blue water. It was an easy twenty-minute ride to Osaki Temple, and we loved every minute of it.

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Here we are at Osaki Temple. It's actually partway up the mountainside, so you can't see it in the picture, but there's a beautiful view here as well.

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This is a person from the temple signing Maddie's shuincho, a book for collection of shrine and temple seals.

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After getting all spiritual, we stopped by a little shop and bought some tempura made with ayu, a small fish endemic to Lake Biwa. The shop was also selling funazushi, among other things.

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This photo was taken mere minutes before our photographer was drenched by a rather large wave. Fortunately, the two of us and our food got away unscathed.

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A close-up shot of the deep-fried goodness: ayu tempura.

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It was an idyllic spring day by the lake, and we hope to come back again next year.

Trip by Ohmi railway

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On March 25, We got up bright and early for a day of sightseeing along the Ohmi Railway!

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The experience was very different from that of the JR lines we're used to taking, but it gave me the feeling of going back in time.

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The sites were also really pretty along the way with spring just beginning.

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We got off at our first stop in Minakuchi, and headed to the Kafuka Ichigo Orchard for all-you-can-eat strawberry picking.

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For 45 minutes, Michaela and I were allowed to eat as many strawberries as we could,and we definitely tried to make the most out of it!

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The strawberries were really juicy; it was sometimes hard to pick the best ones to eat because they all looked so good!

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I think that strawberry picking at Rokushin would especially be a great activity for families; it was so fun.

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Next, we took the Ohmi Railway to Higashiomi,

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and stopped to visit the house of Hikoshiro Fujii, who was a prominent yarn merchant, with a home that used an interesting mix of European and Japanese inspired architecture and decoration.

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My favourite part was the garden in the back; it seemed so effortlessly beautiful, and though you could see traffic from afar, it was so peaceful and quiet.

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Afterwards, we took a short walk around the neighborhood, until we reached Menmen Tanaka, which was a restaurant that served soba and udon noodles. Both meals were delicious!

I got the soba with a vegetable tempura, and Michaela got udon, which was served with a side of sweet beans and sakura shrimp from Lake Biwa. It's called ebimame, which we were told was a famous food in the Bikwako area.

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When we finished out meal, we hopped back on the Ohmi Railway for one more stop before heading home; Toyosato Elementary School.

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Our destination was a bit of a walk from the train station, but it was well worth it! Toyosato Elementary School was recently made famous by the japanese anime K-On!,

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but it was designed by William Merrell Vories, who was a prominent architect in Shiga during the first half of the 20th century.

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It was really interesting to see the interior of the school building; there's so much attention given to detail, and our tour guide was really wonderful about pointing everything out.

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My favourite thing about the school was the main staircases, which had small bronze turtles and rabbits along the railing, meant to symbolize the story of the Tortoise and the Hare.

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After finishing the tour it was finally time to say goodbye, so Michaela and I headed back home from a long day out, tired but happy!

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Being able to experience so many things in Shiga was really fun, and I'm so grateful that we were able to take part in such a fun day. Shiga is a wonderful prefecture with a lot of history and beauty; my hope is that many more people get to learn about what makes this region of Japan special!

We Love SHIGA BIWAKO

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Trip to Nagahama part.2

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Got to explore Nagahama with Molly DeDona! We found some real gems on our day out!

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First, we went to make our own blown glass cups.

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It was a little scary at first, but they were so nice and guided us through every step.

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They were professionals and made me feel like I was in good hands.

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Next, at the same shop, we made our own designs on cups to be sandblasted.

Sandblasting basically adds a cool, frosted effect to your class.

We both decided to do it the difficult way so it took some time, but the result was worth it!

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After all of our hard work, we got some food that is a specialty of Nagahama.

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It's a kind of udon soup. It was deli0cious! The broth was thicker than most and it had a giant mushroom in it! :)

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Next, we walked around Nagahama. We looked at a few shops, including the shop of the figure museum in Nagahama.

It seemed like a cool museum and I wouldn't mind checking it out next time I go!

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We visited also visited a temple as we walked around. While they didn't have an English brochure, just looking at the temple's structure and beautiful shrine inside was worth the visit.

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There were also shops nearby that looked like they sold Yukata. I'll have to stop by and check them out some time!

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Also, the animal that represents that temple or the area is a fox. So, there were lots of cute pictures of foxes on our way to the temple.

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We eventually made our way over to the Plum Blossom exhibit on the other side of the tracks to make our Plum Sake! It was a once in a lifetime experience and I enjoyed every minute! We had visited the Plum Blossom exhibit before, however we had no idea that there was such an event held there.

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Japanese people can make sake in their own house so they had this class.

There was a taste test before where we tried 11 different kinds of sake.

Then, they explained why each sake was different and showed us how to make it.

There was even a company sponsoring the event, so we got a free can of plum juice and sake that we could drink right away.

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I have to shake the plum sake glass jar everyday, but I'm excited to try my own homemade sake when it's ready! :)

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Still, we saw some goodies back in the shopping area that we had to buy so we stepped out for a minute.

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However, when we got back, they lit up the garden out back and it was beautiful.

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After drinking some tea and enjoying some mochi, we took some pictures and said farewell.

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In the end, I honestly never would have thought there would be such gems in Nagahama. I loved exploring and getting to learn more about the opportunities in Shiga. I can't wait to choose another city and explore again!